“If you work at Apple’s One Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino as a computer programmer on an H-1B visa, you can can be paid as little as $52,229. That’s peanuts in Silicon Valley,” Patrick Thibodeau and Sharon Machlis report for Computerworld. “Average wages for a programmer in Santa Clara County are more than $93,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
“However, the U.S. government will approve visa applications for Silicon Valley programmers at $52,229 — and, in fact, did so for hundreds of potential visa holders at Apple alone,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “To be clear, this doesn’t mean there are hundreds of programmers at Apple working for that paltry sum. Apple submitted a form to the U.S. saying it was planning on hiring 150 computer programmers beginning June 14 at this wage. But it’s not doing that.”
“Instead, this is a paperwork exercise by immigration attorneys to give an employer — in this case, Apple — maximum latitude with the H-1B laws,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “Apple may not be paying low wages to H-1B workers, but it can pay low wages to visa workers if it wanted. This fact is at the heart of the H-1B battle.”
“The $52,229 computer programmer wage in Silicon Valley — as ridiculous as it may seem in an area where rents are well above $2,000/month — is allowed by law. This is something that President Donald Trump’s administration, and some in Congress, want to change. The administration wants to get rid of the H-1B lottery system and use wages and education instead as arbiters in the visa distribution,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “Paying low wages is ‘violating the principle of the program, which is supposed to be a means for bringing in skilled labor,’ said a senior White House official at a recent background briefing.”
“Trump’s approach is not outside the mainstream,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “The broad outlines of Trump’s plan — which call to move away from an random visa lottery and to raise wages — are ideas that have found support among some Democrats and Republicans.”
Read more in the full article here.
The following editorial was published by The New York Times‘ Editorial Board, June 16, 2016, five months prior to the U.S. Presidential election:
There is no doubt that H-1B visas — temporary work permits for specially talented foreign professionals — are instead being used by American employers to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. Abbott Laboratories, the health care conglomerate based in Illinois, recently became the latest large American company to use the visas in this way, following the lead of other employers, including Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities (now Eversource Energy), Disney, Toys “R” Us and New York Life.
The visas are supposed to be used only to hire college-educated foreigners in “specialty occupations” requiring “highly specialized knowledge,” and only when such hiring will not depress prevailing wages. But in many cases, laid-off American workers have been required to train their lower-paid replacements.
Lawmakers from both parties have denounced the visa abuse, but it is increasingly widespread, mainly because of loopholes in the law. For example, in most instances, companies that hire H-1B workers are not required to recruit Americans before hiring from overseas. Similarly, companies are able to skirt the rules for using H-1B workers by outsourcing the actual hiring of those workers to Tata, Infosys and other temporary staffing firms, mostly based in India.
Criticism of the visa process has been muted, and reform has moved slowly, partly because laid-off American workers — mostly tech employees replaced by Indian guest workers — have not loudly protested. Their reticence does not mean acceptance or even resignation. As explained in The Times on Sunday by Julia Preston, most of the displaced workers had to sign agreements prohibiting them from criticizing their former employers as a condition of receiving severance pay. The gag orders have largely silenced the laid-off employees, while allowing the employers to publicly defend their actions as legal, which is technically accurate, given the loopholes in the law.
The conversation, however, is changing. Fourteen former tech workers at Abbott, including one who forfeited a chunk of severance pay rather than sign a so-called nondisparagement agreement, have filed federal claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying they were discriminated against because of their ages and American citizenship. Tech workers from Disney have filed federal lawsuits accusing the company and two global outsourcing firms of colluding to supplant Americans with H-1B workers. Former employees of Eversource Energy have also begun to challenge their severance-related gag orders by publicly discussing their dismissals and replacement by foreign workers on H-1B and other visas.
Congressional leaders of both parties have questioned the nondisparagement agreements. Bipartisan legislation in the Senate would revise visa laws to allow former employees to protest their layoffs. Beyond that, what Congress really needs to do is close the loopholes that allow H-1B abuses.
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Tech industry frets over possible H-1B visa program changes under President Trump – January 28, 2017
President Trump eyes an H-1B visa aimed at ‘best and brightest’ – January 27, 2017
Silicon Valley chiefs frozen out of President Trump’s White House – December 3, 2016
Silicon Valley uncertain after Donald Trump wins U.S. presidency – November 10, 2016
Silicon Valley donated 60 times more to Clinton than to Trump – November 7, 2016
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Apple CEO Tim Cook and the rest of Silicon Valley throw big money at Clinton and pretty much bupkis at Trump – August 23, 2016
Donald Trump’s most unlikely supporter: Silicon Valley billionaire Pete Thiel – July 21, 2016
Tech investor Peter Thiel’s embrace of Donald Trump for U.S. President has Silicon Valley squirming – July 20, 2016
An open letter from Apple co-founder Woz, other techies on Donald Trump’s candidacy for U.S. President – July 14, 2016
Apple refuses to aid 2016 GOP presidential convention over Trump comments – June 18, 2016
Apple and Silicon Valley employees love Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump? Not so much – May 6, 2016
Trump: We’ll get Apple to manufacture ‘their damn computers and things’ in the U.S.A. – January 18, 2016